What House Taught Me about Writing!

What House Taught Me About Writing

Well, look, in the end I have fallen, like everyone else… The meat is weak and since I stopped smoking I have more and more — of meat, I say. I’ve got Netflix. I am a consumer, I could not help it. I started to browse and, although there are very good series, I have started with what is one of my favorite series: House MD —which is after Twin Peaks and Friends, but is still in my Top 5—. It is in my Top 5, although I have to confess that I have never managed to see it beyond season 5.

In all the writing workshops and in all the books on writing – on this blog too – you will find that little phrase about: “to write you have to read a lot.” And it’s true, you can’t write if you can’t read … But man does not only live on books. Today art has overcome the barriers and, as writers, we can learn a lot from other media. As Stephen King says, the writer’s toolbox should always be full. I worked as an electrician and, although I had my own tools to strip and cut cables, measure voltages and put plugs, I also had some plumbing and masonry tools… Because you never know what you will find.

Television is a good medium – even if it doesn’t seem like it at first glance. Today, few would dare to doubt the quality of some television series. Taboo, American Gods or Game of Thrones, they are a work of art in themselves. A ghost writer can learn many things from all these series; times, rhythm, setting … Concepts that we can transfer to our works.

Today I want to talk about House MD because it is a series that I have just rediscovered and that I love. I like many things about House the characters, the dialogues, the cultural references… But if there is something we can learn from House it is to develop characters from their different points of view. The characters in House have a consistent voice, they are clearly distinguishable and that is something that is difficult to create, especially in a choral work in which so many characters participate.

House MD, “everyone lies”:

If you are not familiar with the series, I will tell you a little about what it is about and why I like it so much. It is a somewhat particular medical drama centered on the figure of Doctor Gregory House, a nephrologist and diagnostic specialist. The series focuses on him and his team, who tend to work on strange cases that have already been evicted by the rest of the doctors. Greg House is a very peculiar guy; cynical, sarcastic and brutally honest. House has a chronic pain injury to his leg that he treats with Vicodin — it is actually an addiction. Pain makes him miserable, he has a very hard view of the world and is almost always in a bad mood.

His cynical view of the world is summed up in his personal motto: “Everybody lies.” With which it assumes that we all lie and that the only variable is what we do it about. In addition, House endorses the motto: “the end justifies the means” and uses very unorthodox methods to treat his patients, resorting to deception, threat and everything that occurs to him. It’s so dangerous that the hospital’s director, Lisa Cuddy, has $ 50,000 a year reserved for lawsuits brought against him.

House, unlike most doctors, treats his patients simply to show that he can. This is where we enter the fun realm and that is that House is, neither more nor less, than Holmes.

Exactly, the figure of Gregory House is based on that of Sherlock Holmes and it is that, not only the names coincide. They both live at 221B Baker Street. They both have addictions — Holmes to cocaine and House to Vicodin — and they are both virtuosos of some instrument, as House plays the piano —and the electric guitar—. Furthermore, they both use the deductive method and work only for the pleasure of proving to others that they are intellectually superior.

House M. D characters:

Holmes had Watson and House has Wilson. Dr. James Wilson is the only true friend House has. He is the only one he really relies on and trusts. Wilson is the hospital’s chief of oncology and, on many occasions, House’s only restraint. Many times he goes to him for advice, consultation or simply to exchange opinions, at this point he usually makes the Platonic maxim of the dialogue clear and by means of the exchange with Wilson, House usually comes – by himself – to come up with the idea that will save the life of a patient.

His team consists of three other physicians, Dr. Eric Foreman, Dr. Allison Cameron, and Dr. Robert Chase.

Foreman is almost certainly the only doctor House respects. However, he is with whom he most argues. Dr. Allison Cameron is the perfect counterpart to House, she is affectionate and very involved – so much so that many times, she exceeds her functions as a doctor – Cameron also represents the most orthodox vision of medical ethics and clinical procedures in general . He often takes on not just House, but the rest of the team because of this more classic view of life. Chase is the one who more easily communes with House’s eccentricities, in many cases, he does not even worry, he lets himself go — always showing a lack of self-initiative.

From the third season House will change several members of his team, however, these are the main characters.

The points of view:

One of the things I like the most about this series is the way it handles the points of view of up to six main characters. Although Cuddy and Wilson are not usually main characters, they do have a lot of weight in some of the chapters and in almost all of us we are going to see them, even if it is only in a secondary profile. On more than one occasion, you will have the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. This point is necessary for the series, because only in this way can we understand what it means to deal with someone as volatile as House.

One of the strong points is that, in each episode the scenes that each character has varies. So we learn little by little more about each of them and we get to know them in depth. Usually, it is emotional or personal factors that determine which character will have a greater weight in the chapter. House hardly ever talks to his patients, so it is the doctors at his service who are involved in each case. The characters with a greater emotional connection with the patient will be the one chosen for that chapter. This allows each chapter to have a different perspective and, little by little, we discover parts of them. In this way we create new story arcs and complete the characters.

Do you want to learn to manage points of view? Well then, take a look at an episode of House. Yes, 50% of the episode you will see through the eyes of House himself, with all the force of his personality. 40% of the episode will be focused on one of the doctors on his team, as I have already told you, it will rotate among them, according to the involvement of each one in the case. The remaining 10% can be seen from the eyes of Cuddy, Wilson or one of their patients.

Also, each chapter starts from the point of the patient. In case we had few points of view, each episode begins with the symptoms of a strange disease seen from the eyes of the patient. If at any point during the episode we see this point of view again, it will usually be in relation to House. In this way the viewer is allowed to see the little tact and fascinating skill of the doctor.

What is all this good for? Well, these percentages are very good for you to control the points of view of your novel. It’s fine to have one or two central points of view. Each character needs an amount of space of his own, not all deserve the same living space. Some characters just need to appear and others, however, ask for prominence. You must be able to manage the “time on page” of each of them.